Play your part in development

The Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation s town centre redevelopment plan seems to meet with almost universal disapproval in the town. Without going into detail or specific proposals it is clear that, as the main landlord, LGCHF need take little not

The Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation's town centre redevelopment plan seems to meet with almost universal disapproval in the town. Without going into detail or specific proposals it is clear that, as the main landlord, LGCHF need take little notice of public opinion including any views expressed in the consultation last January and February, especially as they are not directly answerable to voters. But they do have to comply with planning regulations and must seek planning permission from North Herts District Council.

NHDC is currently writing a town centre strategy document for Letchworth and is seeking citizens' views in order to accurately reflect their wishes. It all sounds a bit remote and I know a lot of people are pretty cynical about it - 'waste of time', 'won't make any difference', 'Heritage do what they like', etc. - but I do not agree. If sufficient responses to this district council consultation are received then the town centre strategy is likely to reflect those opinions. I attended the meeting a week last Wednesday and the care, diligence and professionalism of the NHDC town planners impressed me, and, I think, most of those in attendance.

Once the strategy document is in place (about February 2007) all applications for planning permission in the town centre will be tested against it. So, for instance, if the strategy said that no further residential property should be built in the town centre or, perhaps, if it was it must have proper, additional, off-street parking of at least one space per apartment (the Heritage's proposal contains a large number of apartments in the Arena Parade / Eastcheap scheme) then planning permission would have to follow that and would not be granted unless complied with. If there is no mention in the strategy then reasons for refusing planning permission are more limited and are open to appeal. There are numerous similar examples that could affect the way Letchworth develops.

The deadline for responses is this Friday, December 8, and a booklet or CD of their ideas plus a questionnaire can be obtained from NHDC offices or the public library. These are long and complex documents but if sufficient of us can complete the questionnaire, even just the parts that seem most important, or maybe gather a small group and do joint efforts, or just write a letter about the one aspect that concerns you, then the strategy has a better chance of a) reflecting townsfolk's opinions and b) steering future development of the town centre the way we, the citizens, want rather than the purely (and justifiably) commercial motives driving the LGCHF proposals. Further information might also be available from our new town council, Letchworth Garden City Council.


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I should declare that I have no personal interest in these proposals except as a private citizen of Letchworth, nor do I have any connection with NHDC, LGCC or LGCHF.

So, fellow citizens, if you want to affect the way Letchworth develops, get writing!

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Mick Bee, Whiteway, Letchworth

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